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Meet 2020's Mid-Atlantic Master Farmers

American Agriculturist Master Farmer emblem
Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are represented in this year’s class of top farmers.

Three words best describe the 2020 class of Mid-Atlantic Master Farmers: innovative, progressive and steady.  

This year’s winners come from Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia:

Gary and Cindy Grossnickle. The Grossnickles, Walkersville, Md., raise 200 Holsteins and 75 Jerseys, and farm 1,300 acres of corn, soybeans and other field crops.

Mark and Mike Orr. The Orr brothers raise tree fruits on nearly 1,000 acres in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Arlin and Deborah Benner. The Benners farm 1,295 acres and raise 2,300 cows and 900 heifers in Mount Joy and Cochranville, Pa.

Full profile stories and slideshows are being posted this week, starting today with a profile of Gary and Cindy Grossnickle. Wednesday will feature Mark and Mike Orr, and Thursday will feature Arlin and Deborah Benner.

The 86th class

This year’s crop of Master Farmers comprises the 86th class of Mid-Atlantic Master Farmers.

It is America’s longest running and most prestigious agricultural honors program. It sprouted in 1927 as part of a Master Farmers of America program to foster stewardship and leadership. At that point, the program was initiated by Pennsylvania Farmer magazine and USDA.

Today, the award is co-sponsored by American Agriculturist magazine and by Cooperative Extension programs in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and West Virginia. AgChoice Farm Credit, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit and Growmark FS are supportive partners.

The Master Farmer award is the lifetime achievement award of agriculture that recognizes exemplary role models of outstanding management, land stewardship and community leadership.

Candidates are nominated by individuals and organizations. Once nominated, candidates receive application forms to complete.

This year’s applications were viewed and scored by a four-judge panel in February and March. Final selections were made in late March.

Scoring is weighted as follows: 75% farm management and financial progress; 15% ag leadership involvement; and 10% non-ag leadership.

For more information on the Mid-Atlantic Master Farmer Association, visit

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